Ukraine's interior minister has vowed there won't be any "whitewash" as authorities investigate the death this week of a 31-year-old man at the hands of a half-dozen policemen with the man's family looking on.
The minister, Arsen Avakov, made the pledge via Facebook after angry residents tried to overturn a police vehicle transporting police officers who were detained over Aleksandr Tsukerman's death in the village of Krivoye Ozero in the southern Mykolaiv Province.
With several of the officers already facing charges, Avakov also promised to “disband the district police department and replace its entire staff.” He said anyone who committed criminal activities would face trial.
Shouting "Murderers!" and spitting, punching, and demanding justice, hundreds of people had converged on the district prosecutor’s office, where the six officers were being transferred to a detention facility.
Some of the officers in custody were said to have been injured in the attack, despite Ukrainian security forces' efforts to contain the mob.
Ukrainian media reports suggested that an unarmed Tsukerman was handcuffed and beaten by police before being shot dead in front of his mother, wife, and young son in his home late on August 23.
The officers were reportedly summoned by Tsukerman's wife during an argument with her husband.
Tsukerman’s mother described the police officers as kicking and beating him before shooting him several times. Tsukerman died at the scene.
But the police officers' version of events contends the officers “used force” in self-defense after Tsukerman “came out with a shovel and attacked the policemen, running after them for some 30 to 40 meters.”
There was also a related phone call and complaint from a taxi driver directed at Tsukerman the same evening, officials said, possibly involving a robbery.
Local reports say at least three of the officers have been charged with murder.
Angry Krivoe Ozero residents are calling their action the Second Vradiivka, in a reference to public reactions to the brutal rape and beating of a local woman by police officers in the village of Vradiivka, also in Mykolaiv Province, in 2013. At the time, hundreds of protesters stormed the Vradiivka police headquarters, smashing windows and setting the building on fire after authorities were accused of trying to cover up the policemen’s crime.
Public protests continued until the police officers were given lengthy prison sentences and several high-profile law-enforcement officials were dismissed for mishandling the situation.